×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Safety Of Objects

The seemingly unrelated lives of four suburban families intertwine with powerful consequences in "The Safety of Objects," director Rose Troche's masterful third feature. Auds grateful for a refreshing lack of cynicism and irony should embrace pic's message of fumbling dignity in the face of emotional and sexual confusion.

With:
Esther Gold - Glenn Close
Jim Train - Dermot Mulroney
Julie Gold - Jessica Campbell
Annette Jennings - Patricia Clarkson
Paul Gold - Joshua Jackson
Susan Train - Moira Kelly
Howard Gold - Robert Klein
Randy - Timothy Olyphant
Helen Christianson - Mary Kay Place
Sam Jennings - Kristen Stewart
Jake Train - Alex House

The seemingly unrelated lives of four suburban families intertwine with powerful consequences in “The Safety of Objects,” director Rose Troche’s masterful third feature. Though pitched squarely in the key of “Short Cuts,” “The Ice Storm,” “Happiness” and “American Beauty,” Troche’s unification and reworking of a handful of A.M. Homes’ short stories has something those films very pointedly lack: a genuine and tangible fondness and respect for the characters and their eccentricities. Auds grateful for a refreshing lack of cynicism and irony in their bigscreen entertainment should embrace pic’s message of fumbling dignity in the face of emotional and sexual confusion, suggesting strong theatrical biz and enduring popularity in all ancillary markets.

In a generic upscale American suburb (Westchester is suggested in Homes’ tome), Esther Gold (Glenn Close) cares for her son Paul (Joshua Jackson), established in flashback as a talented singer-songwriter now in a deep coma. Her daughter Julie (Jessica Campbell) is clearly angered by Esther’s attentions to Paul, while husband Howard (Robert Klein) seems to be resigned to his boy’s fate.

Meanwhile, tense and distracted neighbor Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) doesn’t let a messy divorce and two kids stop her from coming on to Mr. Snippy’s Lawn & Pool employee Randy (Timothy Olyphant) at a local bar. In a nearby house, dedicated lawyer Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) sleepwalks through his life after being passed over for partner at his firm, embarking on a comic odyssey of inarticulate consumerism that confounds his wife Susan (Moira Kelly) and ultimately revolves around Esther’s participation in a shopping mall-set competition to win a sport utility vehicle.

Finally, while health-conscious Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) projects an outward vigor, a profound inner boredom leads her to reach out for the company of strangers. Leisurely yet unerringly, Troche reveals complicated and cryptic linkages among the families with the precision of an interlocking puzzle. In pic’s most crucial development, Randy kidnaps Annette’s tomboyish daughter Samantha (Kristen Stewart), and the fallout of this action wraps up central mystery of Paul’s coma and Julie’s inarticulate anger. Troche’s principal achievements are twofold: first, she’s shaped key elements of Homes’ stories into a seamless, logical narrative. Second, she’s made a quantum leap in the depth and confidence of her direction, coaxing career-best perfs from everyone involved while fleshing out each storyline to maximum impact.

Pic’s strong sexual element is presented with taste and wit. An early, bravura sequence where Julia’s masturbation on a backyard chaise lounge as the principals go about their mundane daily business codifies exquisite tonal balance of pic as a whole. A later sequence in which two of the children comment on each other’s genitalia is shot in such a way to evoke maximum humor without sacrificing an ounce of dignity.

Most fantastic and outrageous plot thread finds Jim’s young son Jake (Alex House) becoming enamored with his sister’s iconic doll Tani; to her credit, Troche never allows these sequences to become smug or off-color. At first blush the title hints at an ironic attachment to material goods, but by the final crane shot of a new family being welcomed at a neighborhood barbecue it’s clear that Troche sees the complex organism that is the neighborhood as its own support system, often dysfunctional but anchored by the tangible things that give it form and meaning.

Tech credits are tops across the board, led by the intuitive widescreen compositions of d.p. Enrique Chediak and Andrea Stanley’s production design, which is a miracle of suburban verisimilitude. The original alt-rock tunes by trio known as Emboznik lend film a musical street cred while shrewdly commenting on proceedings. Tani’s breathy voice is provided by Guinevere Turner, co-scribe of Mary Harron’s “American Psycho” and star of Troche’s 1994 bow “Go Fish.”

The Safety Of Objects

Production: A Clear Blue Sky/Renaissance Films presentation of an Infilm/Killer Films production. (International sales: Renaissance Films, London.) Produced by Dorothy Berwin, Christine Vachon. Executive producers, Stephen Evans, Angus Finney, Jody Patton, Pamela Koffler. Co-producers, Rose Troche, Eric Robison. Directed, written by Rose Troche, based on the book of stories by A.M. Homes.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Enrique Chediak; editor, Geraldine Peroni; music, Emboznik (Barb Morrison, Charles Nieland, Nance Nieland); production designer, Andrea Stanley; costume designer, Laura Jean Shannon; sound (Dolby Digital), Kelly Wright; assistant directors, Marybeth Hagner, David MacLeod. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentation), Sept. 8, 2001. Running time: 121 MIN.

With: Esther Gold - Glenn Close
Jim Train - Dermot Mulroney
Julie Gold - Jessica Campbell
Annette Jennings - Patricia Clarkson
Paul Gold - Joshua Jackson
Susan Train - Moira Kelly
Howard Gold - Robert Klein
Randy - Timothy Olyphant
Helen Christianson - Mary Kay Place
Sam Jennings - Kristen Stewart
Jake Train - Alex House
With: Charlotte Arnold, Andrew Airlie, Stephanie Mills, Angela Vint, Aaron Ashmore, C. David Johnson, Haylee Wanstall.

More Film

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content